Top 8 alternative 3D printer filament

Published on August 23, 2018 by Michelle S.
3D printing filament

As 3D printing is becoming more and more widely spread. Various FDM machines are being produced to accomodate the need. For these machines there are the “standard” plastics such as pure ABS, PLA and PET. 3D printing is worked into a wide range of sectors with a range of needs. However for more everyday use there are also one or two alternative 3D printer filament to play around with.

While this is revolutionising in itself, we also have other new materials worth considering. A lot of these are hybrid materials, as we also mentioned in a previous guide. This time we have collected a list of some of the more interesting and fun alternative 3D printer filaments. These can be used for playing around for various projects to environmental statements. We have previously made a list collecting the craziest materials used for 3D printing. However, as stated this one will be focused sole on actual filaments to provide you an alternative to the more standard ones. Hope you enjoy this list of alternative 3D printer filament.

1. Coffee 3D printer filament

Let’s start our list of alternative 3D printer filament out with a refreshing cup of coffee, or coffee grounds that is. As Coffee grounds have found its way into textile manufacturing as a sustainable way of reusing a waste material. So have it been repurposed for alternative 3D printer filament. The waste, or byproduct if you will, from the coffee produced is mix in with a traditional plastic such as PLA as its base polymer, creating a filament from it.

One company that has worked on this is 3Dfuel with their Wound Up™. They have created a series called c3composites focused bio-based products. The filament shows as a brown colour and noticeable natural grains to provide textures. In this context it can be used by any machine that can use PLA leaving the uses of it open to the same possibilities as well.

3D printer filament

2. Conductive PLA or ABS 3D printing filament

Keeping it simple this filament is a 3D material with conductive carbon particulates included into it. It basically means that the material has the feature creating prints with low-voltage electrical circuits, often including sensors and LED lights. One company creating this filament as PLA is Proto-pasta with the purpose of expanding the usage of 3D printing. The filament can be combined with regular PLA material through a dual extrusion 3D printer. Simple circuit boards can be made directly in the printer. The fact that it is possible to get both PLA and ABS makes it more personalised to what you prefer to work with.

3D printer filament

3. Sandstone 3D filament

From here we will add to the alternative 3D printing filament with a robust looking filament – sandstone. This kind of filament is basically made up of PLA with Brick mixed into it, it can be in form of a fine chalk powder or similar to provide a stone-like colour and texture to it. One of the best-known producers right now is the LayBrick brand. The general look can vary depending on the settings of the machine used, and can go from smooth to rough and anything in between. The material has only few limits, but, is still mostly used in a niche market pointed towards landscaping and architecture because of the nature of the material.

3D printer filament

4. Hemp 3D printer filament

As hemp and weed are becoming a growing debate topic and legalisations are going through all around the world, it would only be natural to also see it in 3D printing. In simple terms, the hemp fibre is grounded up into fine particles and mixed into something like a PLA polymer base. Because of hemps natural abilities it has a number of positive attributes. With no need for pesticides, fertilises the soil in which it grows, and can grow more densely than other crops makes it an even greater eco-solution than a lot of the other choices. When it comes to hemp filament there are multiple brands on the market. One, of course, is 3Dfuel in collaboration with c2renew have launched their Entwined filament. Without colouring, it is possible to anneal after printing (for increased heat-resistance). It further contains visible bio-fill creating a unique texture. Also companies such as 3D4MAKERs have their version out. Developed with biodegradable plastic that can be recycled or composted.

3D printer filament

5. Magnetic PLA 3D filament

As it is stated through the name this alternative 3D printer filament has magnetic properties to play around with. It is often done through the use of iron powder being mixed into the PLA filament. This creates the unique trade for the filament. Proto-pasta is a main producer of the material. Simply put, the iron particles provides the material with the magnetic attributes as well as gives the 3D printed parts a grainy and gunmetal-ish finish.

3D printer filament

6. Wood 3D printer filament

Now we’ll once again look towards nature with wood based filaments. These are often made up of recycled wood but can range from cork that otherwise have 80% of its use going to wine bottle corks, bamboo a plant of fast growth and dry stems, wood dust and much more. The wood fibres can be mixed in with various bases such as PLA/PHA and more as a hybrid filament. Companies such as the Dutch Colorfabb and American Hobbyking have seen the opportunity to jump in and sell various versions providing a natural looking material. They look and more or less smell like actual wood, giving a great finishing for the filament when printed well. It can be used for a variety of things. Ranging from décor, tables, figurines and anything else you can think of in need of a wooden look and feel to it.

3D printer filament

7. Glow in the Dark 3D printer filament

As the name implies, this alternative 3D printing filament glows in the dark. Although this is the case it cannot do so indefinitely without help. The 3D printed object needs exposure to light for the source to recharge. From there, it will light up in whatever colour you have choosen to make the 3D print in. Companies such as Glow and Spoolery are behind producing various versions both in ABS and PLA. It is a safe product and environmentally-friendly, making it harmless and opens up for a wide audience to use it. It is therefore also a great way to decorate things like kids’ bedrooms, used for Halloween or similar situations in need of creativity. However, it is an abrasive material. Meaning it will quickly wear out the 3D printer’s nozzles, in particular when made of brass. A hardened steel nozzle holds out best when printing with this filament.

3D printer filament

8. Biodegradable 3D printing filaments (BioFila)

We will end the list of alternative 3D printing filament with a more ethical input. This category is rather unique, as the main value does not lie with physical attributes. Instead, as the name suggests, the value is in the biodegradable aspect. When you 3D print, the final outcome is not always in the quality one would wish for, leading to a ton of plastic being thrown away. This is where biodegradable filaments come in, as a way to counteract the environmental impact from 3D printing. One of the most popular biodegradable filaments is PLA made from sources such as sugar canes or corn starch etc. Others are Biome3D by Biome Bioplastics and the bioFila line from twoBEars. Despite its primary reason to be, this alternative 3D printing filament does make up for some sound quality prints. It can be used for more or less any kind of prints that doesn’t have specific requirements in form of strength, flexibility or endurance to it. It is especially good to use such filaments in regards to project that require prototyping, making the guilt-free filament even more important.

3D printer filament

Do you know of any other alternative filaments worth checking out? Drop a comment below or on our Facebook and Twitter page. And don’t forget to sign up to our free weekly Newsletter to keep updated on all the latest news in the 3D industry coming straight to your inbox!

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